The post-pandemic home. The Framestudio team predicts how our homes will change.

Outdoor living at the Sunset Magazine Demonstration House 

Image: Thomas Story

Future | COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought endless speculation about what changes we can expect in a post-pandemic world. The lockdown has taught us that our homes should function as a sanctuary, a refuge from the outside world. More than just a roof over our heads and a place to sleep, our homes should aid in our wellbeing, both physically and mentally. 

The perfect place to retreat from family life.

Design: Jordan Parnass Architecture

Here are 7 observations we believe we will see: 1. The return of the den. 

Quick survey: All of you who are sick of the people you’re sheltering in place with, raise your hand. I’m going to guess I’m not the only one who’s eyed the empty amazon boxes wondering what I could order that would come in a box big enough to create my own room. For as much as we all want to be together as a family, open plan living has its challenges.  The Framestudio team predicts the return of the den. Our den would be small in scale, and wouldn't have the walls of glass that we love in our main living areas. Most importantly, it would have a door, with the room insulated for acoustic separation. A space like this is perfect for watching television, make a phone call, getting some work done, taking a nap, or simply allowing you the solitude and headspace to weigh the pros and cons of sending your kids to boarding school. 

The Framestudio team suggests taking advantage of the visual and acoustic separation by adding a built-in desk with a door that allows you to hide the mess (without actually putting things away.)

Writers' studio glows at night in a London garden. 

Design: Weston, Surman, & Dean

2. Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) 

In 2019, the Governor signed into law legislation designed to remove the local barriers to constructing second dwelling units on your property. These Accessory Dwelling Units or ADU’s can be free-standing or carved out of an existing space in your home, like an unfinished lower level. For us, the key benefit is the flexibility and separation that these ADUs provide. A freestanding ADU in the garden can start out as a home office or art studio, can easily morph into overflow accommodations during the holidays, or house an aging family member. ADU's can also pay for themselves when rented as a long-term residence, helping your budget as well as aiding our regions housing crisis. Short term rentals of these spaces are specifically not allowed in this law. During COVID times, these spaces can serve as “sickrooms”, an 18th-century idea as a place to self-quarantine and recover from an illness.  

We feel that ADU’s are a great opportunity to add a sculptural focal point to an urban yard. We see it as an opportunity to build something creative and unique (our strength at Framestudio). 

Our talented friends in London, Studio McLeod has designed this fantastic home workspace in a gallery overlooking the living room.

3. Work from home

The idea of the home office certainly isn’t a new one. In the recent past, homes with two professionals often meant a single home office with two workspaces. Fast forward to today, where working from home involves video meetings and conference calls, making the dual desk home office obsolete. Not all of us have the space for two dedicated office spaces in our homes, so we seek out ways to carve out the second workspace. Work stations can often be added to a hallway by converting a closet, added to a stair landing, or created from a modest space in the kitchen. 

The key to success in these secondary workspaces is flexibility. Think of this as a homework area, a place to send emails, sort mail, and a place for the household printer to live. While secondary workspaces can't always be a separate space, they can allow you to work and make certain the kids aren't trying to kill one another. 

Framestudio designed this mudroom for an estate in Woodside.

Photo: Blue Sky Media. 

4. Mudrooms

We are reminded that Asian cultures have been managing pandemics prior to this one and we predict that some of their domestic habits will become more mainstream, at least here in the Bay Area.  

For the last few years, many of our clients with families have requested landing zones with a cubby for each family member with a place to put their bags, coats, keys, and remove their shoes. With Covid-19, we predict we’ll see landing spaces evolving into mudrooms, with sinks, easily cleanable surfaces, and even laundry baskets, allowing us to wash up and shed clothing that may bring hazards into the home. 

We predict more shoeless households, along with facemasks and gloves being the norm on public transportation. 

The ideal pantry for Framestudio includes bins, adjustable wire shelving, and a work surface for heavy appliances.  Image: House Beautiful

5. Pantry

Being married to an ex-Mormon, Chad's been introduced to the psychological security that comes with a pantry full of food. His inlaws have developed quite the system to rotate the foods, making sure they don't expire. In his home, he keeps on hand the provisions for a few different meals that are especially handy when the run to the grocery store needs to be postponed. 

Pantries are also a great space to store emergency provisions like flashlights, candles, toilet paper -all things we should have on hand in case of an earthquake, or a pandemic. 

 Framestudio loves a good pantry. We suggest building them with adjustable wire shelving like Elfa to allow the shelves to be configured for your hoard of toilet paper as well as your jar of sourdough starter. 

An HRV / ERV brings fresh air into the home, exhausting stale air while transferring the heat to limit energy loss. Image: Fine Homebuilding

6. Fresh Air

With our homes becoming more energy-efficient by making the exterior walls more airtight, indoor air quality becomes an issue. When you add into the mix viruses that are transmitted through the air, we’re seeing more and more of our clients thinking about air quality.  An easy step is replacing the filters in your forced-air heating and cooling system with HEPA filters (and more importantly, replacing them on a regular basis). In our high-performance homes, we often use a Heat Recovery Ventilation System (HRV), which warms fresh air from the exterior by transferring the heat from the stale air it's exhausting. These systems can replace your bathroom exhaust fans, using the steam from the shower to warm the fresh air at up to 84% efficiency.  We most often include these in new construction or major remodels, however, there are less complex units on the market that are suitable for smaller retrofits.  There are many options coming on the market for fresh air systems. The team saw systems at a Frankfurt trade show which combined HRV with HEPA and UV light filters, overwhelming our team with acronyms to keep track of. 

Little Peek dogtrot on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine. 

Architect: Berman Horn Studio

7. Outdoor living

Comparing shelter-in-place experiences with our friends, it became clear that access to outdoor spaces and fresh air plays an important role in everyone's physical and more important mental well being. Being able to throw the doors and windows open to take advantage of a cross breeze has a restorative and comforting effect. As restrictions begin to loosen up, we’re finding ourselves starving for social interaction, which we’re told is safest in the moving air of the outdoors. We expect to see more requests for outdoor rooms in our future. 

Insects are a real thing in most parts of California, and there’s nothing worse than trying to sleep while swatting away at that one mosquito. For all the folding and disappearing glass door systems we’ve seen, none include a screen system that is both good looking, functional, and reliable. Framestudio is incorporating screened in breezeways (called dog trots in the southern states) to help naturally cool homes, and make a space to socialize without being attached by nature.